“Three floors in a day is China’s new normal,” says a representative for this 57-floor skyscraper that was built in just 19 days. Known as the “Mini Sky City” tower in Changsha, the 180,000-square-meter mixed-use building was built in record speed with modular, “LEGO-like” blocks. The process also claimed to have required less materials and significantly reduced the amount of air pollution commonly caused by dusty construction sites.
A time-lapse of the construction process, after the break.
Housing is one of the most persistent challenges faced by the construction industry, and over the course of decades certain trends rise and fall, as entrepreneurial housing providers carve out new niches to provide for expanding populations and changing demographics. Originally published by BuzzBuzzHome as “The Rise and Fall of The Mail-Order House,” this article explores the craze of so-called “catalogue homes” – flat-packed houses that were delivered by mail – which became popular in North America in the first decades of the 20th century.
The testimonials make it sound effortless: building your own house is no sweat.
In the front pages of a 1921 Sears Roebuck catalogue for mail-order homes, a resident of Traverse City, Michigan identified only by the pseudonym “I Did Not Hire Any Help” wrote to the company: “I am very well pleased with my Already Cut House bought off you. All the material went together nicely. In fact, I wish I had another house to put up this summer. I really enjoyed working on such a building, and I do not follow the carpenter trade either.” It’s estimated that more than 100,000 mail-order homes were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940. It was the IKEA of housing, but instead of spending an afternoon putting together a bookshelf, buyers would take on the formidable task of building a house. Or, more commonly, get a contractor to do it. Homebuyers would pick a design of their choice out of a mail-order catalogue and the materials – from the lumber frame boards to the paint to the nails and screws – would be shipped out to the closest railway station for pickup and construction.
Arup and GXN Innovation have been awarded with the JEC Innovation Award 2015 in the construction category for their development of the world’s first self-supporting biocomposite facade panel. Developed as part of the €7.7 million EU-funded BioBuild program, the design reduces the embodied energy of facade systems by 50% compared to traditional systems with no extra cost in construction.
The 4-by-2.3 meter panel is made from flax fabric and bio-derived resin. Intended primarily for commercial offices, the glazing unit features a parametrically-derived faceted design, and comes prefabricated ready for installation. The panel is also designed to be easy to disassemble, making it simple to recycle at the end of its life.
Between 1945 and 1981 around 170 million prefabricated (prefab) residential units were constructed worldwide. Now, as part of a study undertaken by Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile between 2012 and 2014, an exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art features 28 large concrete panel systems from between 1931 and 1981. In so doing, it explores a transnational circulation of these objects of construction, ”weaving them into a historical collage of ambitions and short-lived enthusiasm for utopian dreams.”
This show, curated by Meira Yagid-Haimovici, is an attempt to reveal “how architecture and urbanism was charged with historical, social, and political narratives, and how the modernist vision promoted the fusion of aesthetics and politics.” The models, which are being exhibited as part of the Production Routes exhibition, seek to highlight the richness embodied in ‘generic’ architecture through the lens of prefab construction methods.
“A Kit of Parts” addresses what Studio Jantzen identifies as the four main shortcomings of mobile classrooms currently on the market: flexibility, sustainability, cost effectiveness, and creative construction. Read more about the project and view selected images after the break.
Japanese design brand MUJI has taken a bold step into architectural territory. A few years after a collaboration with Kengo Kuma to design two prefab houses, the company has come forth with a Vertical House in Tokyo. Streamlined and efficient, the home accommodates all the demands of residential living within a small plot of land.
Interior images and more information, after the break.
Two weeks ago, David Rockwell took a step away from his usual work of interior and set design to present his foray into the prefab game – an adaptable 2,400 square-foot house called “Pinwheel.” His design aims to challenge two assumptions about prefabrication: one, affordability and luxury are mutually exclusive and two, pre-fab’s limited flexibility makes a cookie-cutter result inevitable. Rockwell says the project, a collaboration between himself and Fred Carl, founder of modular housing venture C3 Design, was inspired by his childhood in Mexico, where “outdoor space was part of the lifestyle.” Check out the plan and more designs after the break.
With hurricanes Sandy and Katrina etched into recent memory, the need for post-disaster relief housing is now. New York City and Garrison Architects have developed a modular, prefabricated housing system to relieve displaced citizens during the next “superstorm.” At only 40′ by 100′ long, they can squeeze into the city’s smallest corners – all while having kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and storage spaces. The prototype is on display in Brooklyn – but you can see the entire design at the A/N Blog.
This article by Chris Knapp, the Director of Built-Environment Practice, originally appeared on Australian Design Review as “The End Of Prefabrication”. Knapp calls for the end of prefabrication as a driver for design, pointing out its century-long failure to live up to its promise, as well as newer technology’s ability to “mass produce difference”.
Prefabrication – there is not another word in the current lexicon of architecture that more erroneously asserts positive change. For more than a century now, this industrial strategy of production applied to building has yielded both an unending source of optimism for architecture, and equally, a countless series of disappointments. This is a call for the end of prefabrication.
Read on after the break
After being relegated to storage facilities for much of its lifetime, proposals to relocate the Aluminaire House seem to be picking up steam. The project, which was the first all-metal house in the United States, originally stood as a symbol for architectural modernism in a rapidly urbanizing New York.
Prefabrication has long been heralded as a possible way to infill New York’s vacant sites; however, it has only recently become a solid practical solution rather than an experimental concept. Riding the crest of the wave of new prefabricated housing is GLUCK+ (formerly Peter Gluck & Partners), in collaboration with developers Jeffrey Brown and Kimberly Frank. Together they have begun construction on one of New York’s first prefabricated steel and concrete residential buildings.
Read more about this and New York’s recent wave of prefabricated buildings after the break…
Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture will present “COLD war COOL digital,” an exhibition of 20 scaled prototypes of modernist, pre-fabricated, and globally-distributed Cold War era housing systems that were created using contemporary 3D printing technologies (opening reception 2/18 at 6:15, details below). The exhibition will investigate architectural modernism and its global influence and will connect with contemporary prototype pre-fabrication methods and digital research in housing and skyscraper design. A symposium that explores the technical, aesthetic, and political aspects of prototyping and pre-construction in architecture will be held tonight in conjunction with the exhibition.
Continue reading for more details…
Prefabricated design has come to be known as a fast, green, and cost-efficient way to create buildings. Although this technique has most prominently been used with small residential structures, it’s now taken a turn towards greater, larger projects. With prefabricated towers and skyscrapers now in the works (and, in some cases, going up in as little as six days), pre-fab begs the question: is it really safe? Does quick production time lead to instability, making prefabricated buildings more likely to collapse?
Read more after the break.
If you’re at all immersed in the design world, you already know the name of Danish-American furniture designer Jens Risom. And, if you know Jens Risom, you most certainly know the mid-century, pre-fab house he designed and built on an isolated island 13 miles off the coast of New England.
The house, which has stood on Block Island for 45 years with relatively little renovation, despite the island’s notoriously powerful gales of wind, defies the stereotype that pre-fabricated buildings can’t be built to last (or beautifully designed). Indeed, Risom only attempted the venture because of the “personal freedom” that pre-fabrication afforded him. As he explains: “Architecture, to me, is the most beautiful of the arts. But I watched my father [an architect] struggle with the challenges, what was to me an enormous drawback: The architect did not fully drive the end product. I always knew that I wanted to design, but only [if I could] create products over which I had total control.”
More on this extraordinary home and its designer, after the break…
Despite reports that construction firm Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), a subsidiary of Broad Group, could not complete its 220-story Sky City tower in 90 days, the company’s senior VP Juliet Jiang has announced that the skyscraper “will go on as planned with the completion of five storeys a day.”
Thus, rather than in seven months, the world’s tallest tower (838 m; 2,750 ft) will be finished in three – topping out at the end of March 2013.
As we’ve discussed before here on ArchDaily, the tower could truly be revolutionary in China; Broad Group’s 95% prefabricated modular technology, which is responsible for the incredible rate of construction, is also radically environmentally-friendly, earthquake-safe, and cost-effective. In fact, Sky City, designed by engineers who worked on the Burj Khalifa, will cost a tenth of that famous skyscraper (only $1,500 per square meter) – and take a twentieth of the time to build.
More info on the world’s tallest tower, after the break…
Beyond the “Made In China” Mentality: Why China’s Innovation Revolution Must Embrace Pre-Fab Architecture
When Wired correspondent Lauren Hilgers arrived to Broad Town, the headquarters of the Broad Sustainability Group in Changsha, China, she soon realized that this was not your typical workplace environment. At Broad Town, employees must be able to run 7.5 miles over the course of 2 days; recite company “policy” – covering everything from how to save energy to how to brush your teeth – at a moment’s notice; and refer to their boss as “my chairman.”
It may sound strict, but the workers at Broad are on a higher mission. The CEO and founder of the company, Zhang Yue, a.k.a the chairman, doesn’t just consider himself the head of a construction company, but of a “structural revolution.”
In a few years, Zhang has turned the world of skyscraper design on its head, pushing the technical and structural capabilities of pre-fabrication to its utmost (perhaps you’ve heard of the 30-story hotel he built in just 15 days). Not only do Broad’s techniques save time and money, they represent a potentially game-changing opportunity for China to maintain its unfathomable rate of growth in a way that’s both safe and sustainable.
But where does innovation enter in this revolution? China, for years an intellectual playground for Western architects, has become increasingly concerned with nurturing its own latent intellectual capital. However, if Broad’s paradigm takes hold (which, pragmatically-speaking, it should), what will that mean for architectural innovation? In a world of pre-fab structures, can architecture exist?